Game 3 Recap
Last night’s epic struggle between the game’s top pitching behemoths Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia certainly lived up to it’s billing, but not in the locked-down, low-scoring way most expected.  While CC was shaky from the beginning, he was able to get out of trouble with double plays in each of the frist three innings, Verlander gave up two quick runs and then settled into his usual dominant groove. The soon-to-be MVP stuck out 11 (including every Yankee in the starting lineup) and topped the 100 mph mark 15 times—his highest total ever.

Eventually, Detroit was able to wear down CC with clutch hits from some unlikely sources in utility infielder Ramon “Code Red” Santiago and the much-maligned Brandon Inge. The two combined to go 4-for-8 with two doubles, two runs scored and two RBI. Meanwhile, New York was finally able to get to Verlander again in the 7th despite his attempts to explode the radar gun to tie the game at 4.

But the death blow to put the Evil Empire on the brink of elimination came from another unexpected source in waiver-wire acquisition Delmon Young.  The “Little Meat Hook’s” opposite-field blast off the world’s highest-paid middle reliever Rafael Soriano put the Tigers up 5-4, setting things up for closer Jose Valverde to give all Tigers fans a heart attack, but eventually managing to get the Save as he always does.

Game 4 Preview
Tonight’s Game 4 couldn’t be billed more differently as New York’s worst nightmare A.J. Burnett (11-11, 5.15 ERA)  heads to the mound to face the consistently inconsistant Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75 ERA) for Detroit.  While last night’s game was the battle of the best starters in the league, it’s pretty clear tonight will be a battle of the bullpens.

With Verlander gutting out eight innings last night, Tigers manager Jim Leyland will have a more rested bullpen than the Yankees.  Saddled with inferior starting pitching that hasn’t been able to go six innings in either of the last two games, New York manager Joe Girardi has been forced to burn thru his two best middle relievers in Soriano and Dave Robertson last night as well as Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Luis Ayala for a totat of 3.2 innings on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Tigers haven’t used anyone but Valverde and Joaquin Benoit out of the pen over the last two days so Leyland has a full arsenal to work with. With the offenses being equally potent, the Tigers have the edge with a slightly better starter, more bullets it their bullpen, and a raucous crowd at their backs. This series is OVAH!!!

Game 5* (*if necessary)
Even if by some miracle the Tigers don’t clinch tonight, all is not lost as some hysterical bloggers have suggested. Detroit would send September’s American League Pitcher of the Month Doug Fister (8-2, 2.40 ERA as a Tiger) to the mound, fully rested on Thursday.  Despite one poor inning on Saturday, Fister has proven he can get the job done over the long haul and is simply better than his Game 5* (*if necessary) counterpart, Ivan Nova (17-4, 3.66 ERA).

Those same hysterical bloggers have even suggested that Leyland must start Verlander in Game 5* (*if necessary).  While I agree that Verlander is superhuman and capable of the virtually impossible, to start him on two-days rest after throwing 120 pitches would be a ridiculous panic move and totally unnecessary.  While not unprecedented, a starting pitcher going on two-days rest in the postseason hasn’t happened since the late 1960s when four-man rotations were the norm and there was only one round of the playoffs, not three.

Furthermore, it’s ridiculous to rush Verlander back when you have a legit starter ready to go with Fister. It would be ludicrous to just give up on a pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA for the season because of a mere blip on the radar in very strange circumstances Saturday. But even in the unlikely event everything falls apart for the Tigers in Game 4 and Game 5* (*if necessary), no one said Verlander won’t be available out of the bullpen in an all-hands-on-deck, worst-case scenario.  Once again, advantage Tigers.

Things really couldn’t be more bleak for the Yankees. Any way you stack it, the Tigers hold the advantage in almost every remaining facet of the series.  Whether they win it tonight or win it on Thursday, all of Detroit will be smiling and New York will be left questioning how a team with a $200 million payroll could loose to the Tigers for the second time in five years.

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